The term “systemic racism”—defined by NAACP President Derrick Johnson as “system and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African-Americans”—has become an inherent part of the American lexicon over the past three years. During this same period, President Donald J. Trump and his ilk have methodically, and with willful intent, stoked racial divisiveness.
By his executive actions, tweeting activity, media interviews, and political campaign rallies, President Trump has unequivocally demonstrated that he is a “white nationalist.” There are roughly 24 million white nationalists in this country—often referred to in the mainstream media by their more acceptable term, the “Alt-Right.” The number of white nationalists groups in America has increased by 55 percent during the Trump presidency—a clear indication of the President’s legitimization.
Denying Systemic Racism, While Engaging in it
White nationalists, including the President and his subservient attorney general William P. Barr, do not believe there is systemic racism in this country, particularly when it is used to describe them personally or their political ideology that includes their views about policing in America. Despite overwhelming evidence that systemic racism exists in American policing, President Trump and Barr, the nation’s two top law enforcement officials, refuse to acknowledge, much less accept, that this is the case.
When heavily armed white nationalist militia groups staged protests on the capitol’s steps in Lansing, Michigan this past June, the police stood idly by and allowed conduct that would have been shut down immediately if done by black or brown protestors. These armed protests were directly attributable to President Trump’s praise for the white nationalist groups, urging them to “liberate their states.”
There is little doubt that the President would have cried out for the Michigan state police, the FBI, and the National Gaurd to respond aggressively had the protestors been calling for justice for non-white people.
Trump Caravan Encircles Portland
That same overwhelming kind of police response would have been ordered had a caravan of pickup trucks and 18-wheelers packed with armed young people supporting BLM encircled Portland’s city as white nationalists and their supporters did on Saturday, August 29, 2020. The “Trump cruise rally” left a white nationalist leader shot dead on a downtown Portland street. Trump praised that fallen white nationalist leader as a “great patriot” who, in effect, wanted a white race-dominated America, just like his MAGA hat-wearing president does.
And that brings us to Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse.
Kenosha, Wisconsin police responded to a “domestic incident” shortly after 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 23, 2020. Media reports say the four police officers encountered 29-year-old Jacob Blake while he was involved in trying to break up a verbal altercation between two women. There is no evidence in the public record as to what transpired between Blake and the police at the point of the verbal altercation. There is, however, video evidence showing Blake walking around the front of his SUV in which his three children were waiting. A reasonable assumption can be made that the young children were upset because of the confrontation Blake was having with the police. What the video evidence does clearly show is that Blake opened the driver’s door and was leaning toward the inside of the vehicle when officer Rusten Shesky grabbed Blake’s t-shirt by the neck and shot him seven times in the back at point blank range, critically injuring the father of three.
Unarmed Black Man Shot Seven Times
The Blake shooting triggered protests around Kenosha, similar to others seen recently around the country in the wake of an increasing number of unjustified police homicides against African-Americans.
Like the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, the Kenosha protests attracted pro-Trump white nationalism support for the local police involved in quelling the protests.
Video evidence emerged on Tuesday night, August 25, showing 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, armed with a long barrel semi-automatic weapon, killing two protesters and critically injuring a third. The Illinois native was a “Blue Lives Matter” and Trump supporter who went to Kenosha heavily armed to support the local police against Black Lives Matter protesters.
Blue Lives Matter Murderer Walks Away
What is significant about the video evidence in the Rittenhouse shooting is that it shows the teenager walking down the street, murder weapon hanging down his side, with his hands raised in an effort to surrender. White Kenosha police officers drove past him without making any effort to stop, much less arrest, the person who had already made a phone call telling a friend he had just killed someone.
The Kenosha police response in the two cases offers dramatic visual evidence of the reality of systemic racism in policing in the Kenosha police department and throughout the country. It is striking that a white police officer shot an unarmed black man seven times in the back, while his colleagues’ let an armed white man simply walk away after killing two people. Apparently, they were working under the assumption that non-whites were responsible for the shooting. Predictably, President Trump defended the actions of this accused double-murderer, arguing self-defense.
The President of the United States, who praises his white nationalist supporters while condemning social justice protesters as “anarchists” and “terrorists,” stands as the obvious symbol of racism in the nation’s policing regime and throughout the criminal justice system. But he is just one man, a man who is the product of hundreds of years of systemic racism.